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Go Cougars: Sarah's High School Reunion Turns Vicious on "Chuck"

I know that I've been waxing ecstatic about the first few episodes of Season Two of Chuck for quite a while now but this week's installment ("Chuck Versus the Cougars") completely blew me away and should be a permanent fixture in the writers' room about how exactly to make this series work on a self-contained basis while still furthering the characters and creating a funny storyline for the Buy More crew.

And the fact that there was a catfight between Nicole Ritchie's Heather Chandler (got to love the Heathers shout-out) and Sarah (a.k.a. Jenny Burton) in the high school showers didn't hurt matters, either.

After nearly twenty episodes of Chuck (very nearly, anyway), it's about time that we managed to gather some intelligence on Chuck's very sexy handler, Sarah Walker. While we knew that Sarah wasn't her real name, she was romantically involved with Bryce Larson, and our girl had some killer knife skills, that was about as far as our knowledge went. So it was good to finally have an episode that revealed some crucial elements of Sarah's backstory. I never imagined, however, that we'd get to see Sarah as an actual teenager, complete with braces, hair that was out of style even in 1998, and the beginning of her rough-and-tumble spy skills.

While the series has yet to reveal the nature of Sarah's father's crimes (though I did a few weeks back on this site), it's clear that his outlaw behavior marked Sarah from an early age and I loved the scene where she raced through the woods to uncover the box filled with cash ("in case of an emergency") and encountered Agent Graham, who offered her the chance to start her life over again as Sarah Walker. And while Graham may be dead nowadays (thanks to Fulcrum), I liked seeing that their relationship went back as far as it did, even if Sarah has yet to show any emotion over his passing.

We did, however, learn that Sarah (or Jenny, as she was known then) graduated from high school in 1998 in San Diego and that her father is still alive. Hmmm, and just in time for November sweeps, no less.

I thought Nicole Richie did a fantastic job as Heather Chandler. Chuck has played fast and loose with the guest casting and most of the time has come up trumps every single time. Richie's performance was no exception to this rule, turning in a deadly and wickedly funny turn as a mean girl turned, well, an even meaner girl once she's grown up. The way she casually managed to get underneath Sarah's skin was fantastic and Richie pulled it off with a bit of a wink and a smile but without damaging the reality of the character she was playing.

There was a nice parallel between Heather's marriage to geeky Mark Ratner (a very puffy looking Ben Savage) and that between Sarah and Chuck. Can beautiful, sexy, intelligent women really fall for guys as geeky as Chuck and Mark? The series would seem to say yes, if they're as funny and winsome as Chuck Bartowski, anyway. ("Sometimes the nerd gets the girl.") And, for his part, Chuck relished the opportunity to again assume the mantle of superspy Charles Carmichael as Mark begins to hero-worship Chuck for his alleged fighting skills, courtesy of Casey, who lays it on a little thick with his "mad dog" speech. (Ha!)

I loved the Risky Business storyline for Lester and the Buy More staff as they inanely slash prices but then realize that they're short cash (um, yeah) and then throw a party at the Buy More to raise their funds before Big Mike finds out about Lester's innovative pricing strategy. But, of course, the party gets out of hand and Big Mike's prized marlin gets damaged along the way. And just like that, Lester's reign of terror comes to an end.

But the real gem of the episode was the brutal aforementioned knock-down fight between Heather and Sarah in the locker room. While the fight could have been played for laughs, it was a savage brawl involving knives, pipes, and guns and showed the two women as age-old nemeses out for blood... as they battered, punched, and kicked at one another under the showers. (Is it getting warm in here or is it me?)

Best line of the evening: "When you look at him, I want you to see Big Mike, and not some scrawny ass Indian kid with a Bay City Rollers hairdo."

One small complaint: would the Russian mob really corner Mark in a restaurant bathroom and then jump when Chuck (or any other customer) walked in to said bathroom as the door was unlocked? Probably not the best place for a confrontation or an assassination. But a minor quibble about a stellar episode that proves why Monday nights only need one mad dog spy.

Next week on Chuck ("Chuck Versus Tom Sawyer"), the fate of the entire world rests on Chuck's videogame skills; Big Mike hires a new assistant manager (Arrested Development's Tony Hale) now that Lester has quit his post.

Comments

The Russian mob taking over the men's restroom in a nice restaurant seemed silly to me too but, otherwise, it was a great episode.

Chuck getting to play hotshot spy Carmichael in front of his first fan (Mark) was fun as was seeing a bit of Sarah/Jenny's past. The hair! Those braces! Overall, a great ep.
Anonymous said…
I thought this was a killer episode and I'm glad to hear you think so, too. At ChuckTV.net, the men in the forum generally give it an "OK" rating, while the women loved it. An interesting split, especially when I see you (a male, in case you didn't know) giving it such a good review.
Jace Lacob said…
Mel, that's an interesting gender split and I wonder at the rationale behind it. Could it be that because the episode overall had less action sequences and more character development that it wasn't as heavily favored by men? Anyone else got a theory on the disparity?
Anonymous said…
I'm surprised that the girl fight in the showers didn't bring in a better rating with the men!
Synd-e said…
Dug all the references in this episode, although I totally missed the "Heathers" one. However, how nifty was it that the husband was named "Mark Ratner" (Fast Times at Ridgemont High), and that Sarah claimed to have been in a commercial where she ate a "really messy cheeseburger" - a sly reference to Ritche's former BFF Paris Hilton's Carl's Jr. commercial?
Anonymous said…
I also saw connections to one of Baldwin's early roles: My Bodyguard. I may be the only one though . . .
Unknown said…
I'm male, and I thought this was a great ep. The stunt-casting of Nicole Richie was a bit distracting, but she did a great job. Who cares if Russians prefer to accost people in men's rooms. There are many other things even less believable. (They built the bat-cave in a few months without anyone noticing?)

Fast Times! Of course. I knew the name "Mark Ratner" sounded familiar.

Why do people (women?) think men enjoy seeing women beat each other up? Now, if they were kissing in the shower, that's a different story...
Anonymous said…
I've been behind on Chuck and finally watched this one. I've stuck with the show, even if I've never fully gotten into it. I think that's why I had 3 eps sitting on my dvr (until I watched 2 yesterday).

but this ep....

Finally. Finally it all seemed to come together for me. I really, really liked this ep and was engaged from beginning to end, which hasn't really been the case for the other eps.

really liked the Ratner and chandler references. Nice touch. And didn't hate Nicole Richie, which was surprising. :)

re: "One small complaint: would the Russian mob really corner Mark in a restaurant bathroom and then jump when Chuck (or any other customer) walked in to said bathroom as the door was unlocked?"

Oh yeah. That was really, really lame. Totally distracting.

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